United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
TERRENCE W. BOYLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the court on the parties' cross-motions
for judgment on the pleadings, [D.E. 16, 19]. A hearing on
this matter was held in Raleigh, North Carolina on July 25,
2017. [D.E. 22]. For the reasons discussed below, plaintiffs
motion [D.E. 16] is DENIED and defendant's motion [D.E.
19] is GRANTED. The decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.
asserts that the following medical conditions prevent her
from working: lumbar degenerative disc disease with a
herniated disc; obstructive sleep apnea; bilateral carpal
tunnel syndrome; hypertension; and depression. [D.E. 17] at
3, 11. On the alleged disability onset date of November 12,
2010, plaintiff was 34 years old. Id.
filed applications for disability insurance benefits under
Title II of the Social Security Act ("Act") and
supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI of the
Act. See [Tr. 248-58]. Plaintiffs applications were
denied initially and upon reconsideration. [Tr. 178-83,
192-200]. An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") held
a hearing on October 7, 2014, to consider plaintiffs claims
de novo. [Tr. 93-121]. On January 29, 2015, the ALJ
issued a decision denying plaintiffs claim. [Tr. 74-92]. On
June 23, 2016, the Appeals Council denied plaintiffs request
for review [Tr. 1-4], and the ALJ's decision became the
Commissioner's final decision. On August 18, 2016,
plaintiff filed with the court a complaint seeking judicial
review of pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g),
1383(c)(3). [DE 5].
district court's review of the Commissioner's final
decision is limited to determining whether the correct legal
standard was applied and whether, based on the entire
administrative record, there is substantial evidence to
support the Commissioner's findings. 42 U.S.C. §
405(g); Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401
(1971). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion." Johnson v. Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650,
653 (4th Cir. 2005) (per curiam) (internal quotation and
individual is considered disabled if she is unable "to
engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any
medically determinable physical or mental impairment which
can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can
be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
[twelve] months." 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). The
Act further provides:
an individual shall be determined to be under a disability
only if [her] physical or mental impairment or
impairments' are of such severity that [she] is not only
unable to do [her] previous work but cannot, considering
[her] age, education, and work experience, engage in any
other line of substantial gainful work ....
42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).
engages in a sequential five-step evaluation process to make
an initial disability determination. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a); see Johnson, 434 F.3d at 653. The
burden of proof is on the claimant for the first four steps
of this inquiry, but shifts to the Commissioner at the fifth
step. Pass v. Chater, 65 F.3d 1200, 1203 (4th Cir.
1995). If a decision regarding the claimant's disability
can be made at any step of the process, the ALJ's inquiry
ceases. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4).
evaluating adults, the ALJ denies the claim at step one if
the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful
activity. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). At step two, the
ALJ denies the claim if the claimant does not have a severe
impairment or combination of impairments significantly
limiting her from performing basic work activities.
Id. At step three, the ALJ compares the
claimant's impairment to those in the Listing of
Impairments. See 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App.
1. If the impairment is listed, or equivalent to a listed
impairment, disability is conclusively presumed without
considering the claimant's age, education, and work
experience. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(d). However, if the
impairment does not meet or equal a listed impairment, the
ALJ then makes a residual functional capacity
("RFC") finding. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(e).
making an RFC finding, the ALJ's considers both severe
and non-severe impairments, and any combination thereof, and
takes into account both objective medical evidence as well as
subjective complaints of pain and limitations. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1545(e). The ALJ further considers the
claimant's ability to meet the physical, mental, sensory,
and other requirements of accomplishing work. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1545(a)(4). An RFC finding is meant to reflect the
most that a claimant can do, despite his or her limitations.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1).
four, the ALJ considers a claimant's RFC to determine
whether she can perform past relevant work ("PRW")
despite her impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). If
not, the ALJ proceeds to step five of the analysis:
establishing whether the claimant-based on her RFC, age,
education, and work experience-can make an adjustment to
perform other work. Id. To determine what
occupations are available that a claimant could perform, the
ALJ relies on the Dictionary of Occupational Titles
("DOT") including its companion publication,
Selected Characteristics of Occupations Defined in the
Revised Dictionary of ...